My new wife and I, and 2 other coupples traveled on the western Caribbean cruise from October 16 to 23rd. This was our 6th cruise, 4th on Carnival, first on the Dream. For this cruise we moved up to a balcony on the 6th or 8th deck, positioned right above the shops.
First the good. The boat is a beautiful ship and well designed, tastefully decorated. The room was spacious, the balcony a nice change. Great design overall. Getting on and off the boat was the fastest, smoothest, I have ever experienced. I think Carnival has nailed this process that can be a real pain. Food choices with the tandori grill, pasta bar, Mongolian grill, burrito bar, and others was great. There was absolutely no reason to eat the same thing twice over the course of a week.
The serenity area for adults only was beautiful, and a welcomed addition. Lots of places to sit and read, comfy chairs, etc. The rest of the boat had great chairs, and even little end tables to place your drink upon between chairs everywhere. There were lots of hot tubs but it seemed not many people in them. Only 1 of the several I tried had hot water, the rest was more luke warm which I didn't understand or experience before.
The comedy shows were great, but the lounge filled very quickly and as many people were standing as sitting. The performers were great. I read here that Dancing in the Street was a good show and I agree.
Now the bad. We had anytime dining and generally arrived at the dining room between 6:30 and 7:30. 7 pm seemed to be rush hour as we learned. One evening we waited alomost an hour for a table to seat 6 of us, and then were given a table that could seat 10, meaning some of us were too far away from others to talk. Food served in the main dining room was repetitive. After 4 Carnival cruises, I can almost predict what the menu is going to be. I was unpleasantly surprised one night when I ordered "Tom Turkey" that it was actually Turkey roll! Was this made by Swanson?
We chose the steakhouse for one evening and the steak was great. The service not so much. It did not seem as though the staff there were sure of what they were doing, and the experience and interaction with the staff was less enjoyable than in the main dining. Was the meal worth $30, bucks, yes. Was it worth $30 more than the meal in the main dining room,, no. I wouldn't go back.
On the first evening of the cruise each couple purchased the wine package of 5 bottles of wine. This packaging of wine was a great idea. That wine can be brought to your room as well (full or partial bottle), or enjoyed at any dining room on the boat. However there was a problem with them finding the right bottle of wine during most meals if you left a partial bottle the previous evening. Sometime a bottle of wine wouldn't make it to the table until after appetizers. I would recommend buying the package, just drink the entire bottle over dinner or bring it back to your room (more to follow).
The room steward was friendly enough, but again I got a feeling he wasn't sure of what he was doing. Never seen him much, never asked if everything was OK, and basically stayed behind the scenes far more than on other cruises. We brought some wine on board as allowed, and a bottle was given to us by relatives and in our room when we arrived. However there were no wine glasses in the room. I asked the steward for them, they brought a set that we used, then they were taken and not replaced!? If I am allowed to have wine in my room from various sources, including what I purchased in the dining room, why the problem with supplying wine glasses.
The fitness center on this boat was the smallest I have ever experienced, and a lot of the equipment wasn't working properly. The doors to the balcony are a poor design and are constantly slamming from all the rooms around you. They need some kind mechanism that prevents them from slamming shut, and I wouldn't recommend a balcony to anyone with kids it is inevitable that kids are going to loose fingers in these doors.
I purchased a coke card as I have always done. This ship, like the past several Carnival cruises only offers iced tea and lemonade free, both of which I am not fond of. No problem, I will have soft drinks or juice with my card. But now this seems to be a problem for Carnival as they will give you a miniature portion. A small glass, lots of ice, and maybe a half can of Coke! I asked for larger and was told that was not allowed. So if I go to the buffet for lunch, I have to go elsewhere to get a coke because it is not available within the restaurants, only at bars. For me it is a lose-lose situation. I can forgo the Coke card and drink water and iced tea all week, or buy the Coke card and spend too much time going back and forth to the bar. Really, either charge me more for the card or the cruise so that I can at least get a full can of Coke. I bough the card but it was like they didn't want to give me the coke.
The "Past Guests" event was really quite boring, and was representative I think of the entire mood of the ship and the personnel on it. Most everyone was going through the motions, no real excitement, the cruise director excepted who seem to be, along with Gumby, the only ones giving 110% to ensure everyone was having a great time, but was unable to overcome the staff and policies that detracted from everything. For me a cruise is an opportunity to be waited and tended upon, with my satisfaction being paramount, and I pay to be spoiled for a week. The little details that make any experience special were all missing. This cruise seemed like I paid for admittance but got the cheap tickets, nickel and dimed at every opportunity. My port reviews are below.
The other port was Isla Roatan but is mis-labelled above. I hated this stop. First, this is a port that carnival created so it is like a high security compound that is meant to keep either you in or someone else out. Either way, I didn't like it.
Reading other reviews I understand the rest of this area is beautiful, and excursions are available, but you would have to make arrangements in advance. But I never saw a way out so that we could look at excursions, or visit shops outside the compound.
There is a beach there, man made with a steep drop off and sand that ends not far from the water line, and still inside the compound. On our day there, a second carnival ship docked so now you had 6000 to 7000 people in this compound and beach area so it was very crowded.
For me, I like to experience the culture and life of the places I visit, and i don't mind leaving money behind to the people that are obviously less fortunate than the typical cruiser. I felt that carnival was doing this place a disservice by trying to keep the passengers captive and confined to their facilities.
PS. A a side note, the ship left 2 passengers at this port. I could see them running for the ship from my balcony and the boat was still only a couple feet from the pier. The other ship in port that day left before us and did the exact same thing with a lady.